Freight Car Friday – Santa Fe’s Water Tank Cars

Lionel Trains

Railroads carry an amazing variety of liquids in their tank cars. As the summer season starts, it’s a reminder that one of the most basic tank car commodities can also be the most important – water.

water tank An old Santa Fe water car stands ready in Victorville, California as a BNSF stack train hurries past on its way to Long Beach in 2014.

As railroads built their empires, particularly through the arid southwestern parts of the United States, the lack of suitable water quickly became a concern for thirsty workers and steam locomotives. In the earliest days, water cars were nothing more than large tanks mounted on flatcars. Once tank car designs became more common near the start of the 20th Century, new steel water tank cars came into service.

The lack of water wasn’t only a concern for the railroads during their construction phase. If the line hoped to encourage…

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